Freight shipments involve a lot of formalities, documentation and time. Each and every document plays an important role and every step taken is a vital one. Slight mismanagement or misplacement of even one bill can cause a disturbance in the shipping process.
Shipping documents are bills or forms that consist of all the details of the freight shipment and its consignee. The exporters are liable to submit shipping documents with the declaration form which must be duly signed by the customs department.
With the advancement of technology, most of the freight shipments can be booked online. Similarly, you can also store all these documents electronically. Yes, there are many online portals & freight marketplaces which offer the facility of storing documents for shipping on an encrypted and secured online server.
List of Common Shipping Documents
There are some shipping documents that are common in every international freight shipment. These are not only necessary for the completion of the process but also serve a particular purpose.
The freight invoice is commonly termed as a commercial invoice, which is a document considered as the proof of the sale of goods that are imported/exported in international trade. In other words, it is a proof of international transaction that is generated at the time of shipment. The details and information of all the concerned parties are mentioned in it including the exporter, importer, shipper/freight forwarder, involved shipping lines, payment methods, bank, etc.
A freight invoice is not like a standard invoice because it also contains the details of customs clearance purposes. It is counted as a legal document which must state the details of the goods being shipped and their prices. Thus, you should know about this shipping document in order to use it efficiently.
The Bill of Lading
If there is any shipping document that you must know very intuitively, then it is the Bill of Lading. In the recently released ninth edition of incoterms, some terms of this document have also been improvised for a better trade experience. It is not just a mere document with details of the shipment, you should know it holds a greater significance. The Bill of Lading is abbreviated as B/L and acts as a contract of the carriage between you and your selected shipping line.
The details of you and the importer of your freight is mentioned clearly on every B/L that is generated against the freight shipment. There are two types of Bill of Lading, they are:
- The House Bill of Lading (HBL)
- The Master Bill of Lading (MBL)
Certificate of Origin (COO)
The Certificate of Origin (COO) is another common and important document that is used to certify the origin of the goods exported. According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), it is like a declaration that must be made by the exporter to legally justify that the goods are wholly produced, obtained, processed or manufactured in a particular country.
The COO is also needed for customs clearance and it is used to determine the duties and taxes that you need to pay for exporting the goods. So, it is your responsibility to know about this shipping document.
The packing list is a common document that is also mandatory in the shipping process. It enlists the tiniest of details of the goods including its weight, nature, volume and value of each box that is included in the cargo. It is used to inform your shipper, concerned customs office, carrier and importer about the goods you are shipping and hence, eliminates the need to physically verify the contents. Since the packing list is usually used for generating the Bill of Lading, it is important for you to make sure that all the information mentioned in it is correct and true to your knowledge.
The Letter of Credit
It is a formal and binding agreement of payment between the seller and the buyer. The agreement enlists all the terms and conditions of payment which must be agreed by both the parties. The international trade process is a very long and time-consuming one. After shipping your cargo, you have to wait for it to reach its destination and then safely to the importer’s hands. The letter of credit is used to specify the terms of payment during this time and how the entire amount would be settled. Thus, you should have prior knowledge of it to set the terms properly.
Shipping documents are as important as the cargo itself. Loss or damage of even a single document can create chaos in the freight shipment. Therefore, you should know about the usage and importance of it.